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Tag: healthy students

How to Stay Warm as a Dancer: Winter is Coming!

how to stay warm as a dancer

There is no denying the chilly, winter weather! It is imperative that we teach our students how to stay warm as a dancer: by dressing smartly and warmly during the cold, extreme weather conditions.

One of my great friends, Nuala DeGeorge offered the following, great tips for how to stay warm to her students at Stage Door School of Dance in East Patchogue, New York. Please pass them on to your students, so that we can all have a happy and healthy winter dance season.

How to Wear Dance Clothes When it Is Freezing Outside

Nuala DeGeorge

Dance class in freezing weather presents its challenges. One of those challenges is wearing proper dance attire while still keeping your body warm enough to avoid injury. Take the time to warm up. When coming in from the cold, your muscles are contracted to assist in keeping your body warm, and they need to be loosened slowly before beginning to dance. In cold weather, Layering your apparel is essential for dancers.

Things You’ll Need
Leotard, Tights, Pants, Leg warmers,
Sweater, Socks, Dance shoes.

Getting Dressed …

Step 1
Start with the basic dance outfit, which is a leotard and tights.

Step 2
Put a long-sleeve dance sweater or Sweatshirt on over your leotard to keep your upper body warm. If you do not have a dance sweater, any form-fitting top or sweater that allows you to use your full range of motion will do.

Step 3
To keep your bottom half warm, put on a pair of leg warmers or dance pants. Pull your leg warmers all the way up so that they cover the majority of your leg.

Step 4
Footwear will depend on the type of dance class you are taking. If it is a class that does not require shoes for the warm up, wear socks for the beginning of the class and take them off to avoid sliding when the dancing begins.

Tips & Warnings
Do not allow your body to overheat. Once you are moving and start to warm up, shed your outer layer. You may find that by the end of the class you are down to your leotard and tights and still sweating; however, bundle up again before going back outside in the cold.

thermometer

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When to Use Ice or Heat for an Injury

Defaulting to the same treatment for every muscle pain can inhibit recovery. Check these tips on when to use ice or heat treatment for pain!

Ballet is a very disciplined art that requires a lot of work from the body. Dancers train carefully and are diligent with their warm ups to prevent injuries, but even with the best prep work they can still face sore muscles and occasional strains. When that happens to you, it’s important to treat the pains correctly so that you can get back to dancing quickly and safely. Common misconceptions about the correct way to treat these minor injuries can lead to delayed recovery times or an increased risk of bothering the problem area again. Knowing when to use ice or heat is important knowledge for every dancer to have.

When to Ice Sore Muscles

For many dancers, applying ice to a painful area can be the default reaction, but injury specialists warn that this isn’t always the appropriate response.

According to the experts at Health Line, icing is meant for the quick treatment of fresh injuries. Also known as cryotherapy, this process works best for treating pain and inflammation. Cryotherapy can also be used if a dancer is feeling sore after a particularly demanding workout. The ice causes the blood vessels to constrict which reduces swelling and the discomfort that comes with it. Icing sore areas after exercising can reduce bruising as well by slowing down fluid build-ups under the skin.

You need to be careful to avoid icing before performing any strenuous activity. There’s a reason why athletes of all disciplines must perform warm ups before exercising – cold muscles are tighter and can be more prone to pulls or tears. If you feel the need to ice any part of your body during a dance class or workout, you need to be done exercising for a while.

It can be dangerous to return to physical activity immediately after icing a muscle, even if it’s started to feel better. You’ll be better off taking a little extra downtime than risking making an injury worse, which could result in a much longer recovery. Dance Teacher Magazine recommended you wait at least an hour before dancing again if you’ve iced a muscle.

The writers at Dance Teacher Magazine also emphasized that placing ice on an injury can create more problems than it solves if it isn’t done properly. Make sure you wrap your ice pack in a thin towel or similar material to keep it from having direct contact with your skin. You should only apply ice for a maximum of 20 minutes. Otherwise, it may work to increase blood flow to the area again. Ideally, the source recommends that you ice for 10 minutes every hour until the swelling has gone down.

When to Turn to Heat

Using heat, like an electronic heating pad or microwavable warming pack, is good for soreness unrelated to swelling or for muscle spasms. The Cleveland Clinic reported that heat will help to relax muscles and get rid of any stiffness.

Applying heat to a sore area can be beneficial before a workout, but it’s important that you only do this if you’re sure you don’t have a serious injury. A little stiffness in the calves after a hard day of dancing is common, but if you rolled your ankle the day before you don’t want to try to push through that pain. Use heat to relax stiff muscles to improve flexibility and prevent strains before dancing again.

Heat should never be applied to acute pain or swollen areas. The warmth will increase blood flow, which will allow a swollen muscle to expand even more. Dance Teacher Magazine reported that you should wait at least 48 hours after an injury to make sure swelling is gone before switching from ice to heat therapy.

When to See a Doctor

The most important thing about treating pain is making sure you aren’t ignoring a serious injury. While you may tell yourself that the show must go on and try to dance through it, you could actually be causing yourself to spend more time away from dance by creating a bigger problem than you started with. The medical experts at the Mayo Clinic said that most minor injuries can be treated with home remedies at first, but if pain persists you’ll need to visit a doctor to rule out any significant problems.

If there is major swelling or the pain is excruciating, you need to see a medical professional right away. If you can’t put any pressure on the injured area, like carrying something when you have a sore wrist or walking on a bad ankle, that’s also a sign that you shouldn’t wait for treatment.

Otherwise, just be sure to use the right timing for ice or heat and make sure to get plenty of rest while you’re feeling pain.

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Stretching to Improve Flexibility

stretching to improve flexibility

Flexibility is a building block of ballet – it allows for a wider range of motion, helps protect against injury and enables more elegant lines. And the crazy thing about flexibility is that no matter how far you can stretch already, there’s always more to be done! Stretching to improve flexibility is a critical part of your dance development.

If you’re sweating over a stubborn hamstring that won’t budge or a back that just refuses to arch, fret no more. The best way to improve your flexibility is to consistently stretch – every day if you can swing it – because just stretching once every other week just won’t cut it. And as always, don’t push your body further than it can go! If a stretch hurts, that’s not a sign you’re improving – it’s a sign you’re damaging your muscles and tendons, so move into deeper stretches gradually. Here are two stretches that are very effective for improving your flexibility.

Back Flexibility

The stretch, “The Superman,” comes from DanceTeacher Connect and is a great way to improve back flexibility. First, lay down on the ground flat on your stomach. Then, raise your upper body off the ground as high as possible without using your arms for support – your chest and back muscles should pull you up. Go as high as you can, then return to the start. The blog recommends repeating this movement three times then resting to build the muscles around your spine, thereby improving your back flexibility.

Hip Flexor Stretch

DanceSpirit magazine has a great list of dynamic stretches that dancers can do. Brynn Jinnett, creator of Refine Method in New York City, told the magazine that dancers focus too much on static stretches and don’t do enough dynamic stretches that can improve their overall range of motion. Try their hip flexor stretch for greater hip and hamstring flexibility and deeper splits. First, kneel on your right knee with your left leg in front of you and bend it perpendicular to the floor. Push forward gently with your hips, like you’re lunging, while squeezing your glutes. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.

Stacey Nemour, a flexibility guru, reminded dancers that it’s important to stretch with correct form, to relax and never force the muscles or bounce during stretching. So be careful not to overwork your muscles and gradually up the intensity of your stretching routine.

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Dancer Flexibility: Improve Your Students’ Développé Extension

dancer flexibility

When performed correctly, the développé is absolutely mesmerizing – just see how long you watch this gif of Maria Kochetkova. Many dancers, though, struggle with the développé, and instead of being a source of beauty and grace, the move is a source of constant frustration. Every dance teacher has likely heard some of their students complain about their dancer flexibility and the développé.

Kochetkova makes the move look easy, but the développé requires several complex muscle groups to work together in perfect harmony. If just one group is underdeveloped, then the movement is failed from the start. A dancer can be able to do the oversplits with ease but lack the core strength to hold her leg over her head, while a dancer with flexible hips that allow for a wide range of movement can have underdeveloped hamstrings that prevent them from holding her leg in a straight line.

The key to stunning développé extension is thoroughly conditioning all the muscle groups that are involved in the move. Here are four ways that dance teachers can help their students improve their développé extension.

1. Work the Iliopsoas

Everyone’s heard of the hamstrings and hip flexors, but not many people are familiar specifically with the iliopsoas. Which is a real shame, because it’s absolutely vital to sky-high développé.

As Nichelle explained in a very informative article for Dance Advantage, the iliopsoas is the group of muscles that enables the leg to move higher than 90 degrees. For many dancers that are incredibly flexible but unable to lift their legs to their heads, an underdeveloped iliopsoas may be to blame. However, they usually aren’t even aware that this is the problem.

Deb Vogel, a neuromuscular educator, shared several exercises for strengthening the iliopsoas that dance teachers should have their students do.

First, sit up straight on a chair, without your back touching, with both feet on the ground. Keeping your pelvis strong and centered, lift one knee up toward the ceiling, then lower it down so your toes touch the floor. Lift your knee back up, and repeat the movement 20 times for each leg.

Sounds easy, but isolating the iliopsoas like that is a real workout. When your students can do this exercise with ease, have them try this next movement:

Sit in a chair with your back leaning against the back of the chair, and bend one leg at the knee while holding the other leg straight. Keeping the extended leg a little turned out, raise it as high as possible and then lower it back down so it’s even with the other knee. Repeat this movement 20 times, then do it on the other leg.

Vogel advised that dancers follow these exercises, or any other ones that focus on the iliopsoas, with lunge stretches. With these two exercises, it won’t take long to strengthen this important muscle.

2. Strengthen the Core

Dancer flexibility gets much of the attention when it comes to working développés, but core strength is also very vital. A strong core supports all the movements of the développé and ensures that the leg can be held up high while the hips and standing leg are stable. Strong abdominals allow the leg to be held up, but as The Dance Training Project explained, they’re also necessary to keep your spine straight, centered and stable. If you spine is not in a neutral position, then the pelvic alignment will be off, which prevents maximum leg extension.

However, contrary to popular belief, crunches are not the answer for a stronger core, according to The Dance Training Project. Making repetitive concentric contractions – like sit-ups – aren’t effective for building the core strength that dancers need. Instead, dancers should focus on exercises that lengthen the abs and other core muscles – known as eccentric training – so that dancers can achieve a greater range of motion. Planks and abdominal roll-out exercises will provide an eccentric workout, but The Dance Training Project put together a PDF that includes great eccentric core exercises for dancers.

3. Embrace the Floor Barre

Practicing floor barre is also a fantastic way to improve développé extension. Dame Lucette Aldous, a ballerina in the Nureyev rendition of Don Quixote, told Dance Australia how she teaches the Boris Kniaseff method of floor barre to improve her students’ développé.

According to the source, floor barre helps increase overall strength, improve body positioning and posture and even boost circulation, which helps expand range of movement.

“When joints are moving, it sends synovial fluid into the joints – it’s like you’re lubricating those joints,” said Aldous in an interview with Dance Australia.

There are different floor bar techniques for dance teachers to explore. Dance Advantage put together a great guide to the different methods here, including the Boris Kniaseff and Maria Fay techniques.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the description of the iliopsoas.

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Foot Stretches for Dancers 101

foot stretches for dancers

A dancer relies on her feet, and it takes care and practice through foot stretches for dancers to make sure your feet are at the top of their game. Strong, flexible feet provide the foundation upon which other moves are done – weak feet, and you’re going to have a hard time dancing confidently and fluidly.

Whether you think you have flat feet or arches that need a little more oomph, there are lots of stretches you can do to strengthen your feet and make them more flexible. However, it’s important to be familiar with safe stretching practices and the movements that you should avoid. Stretching too much – or the wrong way – can backfire on you and cause serious damage.

Read on to learn more about stretching your feet.

Popular Foot Stretches for Dancers

There are several different ways that the feet can be stretched. One way is manually – the dancer herself uses her hands to bend her toes and arches to extend their stretch. Resistance bands, such as the Theraband, are also popular. Another way is to have your friend stretch your feet or – as you have probably heard before – to stretch your feet under a piano, door or couch. These last two methods – having a friend stretch you and using an object to stretch – are not recommended, as they can pose serious damage to your feet.

BalletHub explained that these two types of stretches put additional stress on the body. By putting your feet underneath a heavy object, you put extreme pressure on your knee, heel and leg muscles, making more prone to injury. For similar reasons, having a friend stretch out your foot is not recommended, either. Your friend isn’t you, so they don’t know how much pressure is too much – and if they do stretch your foot too far, by the time you notice the damage may already be done.

Stretching your feet yourself, without the use of heavy objects for leverage, and using a band are safer ways of stretching your feet. However, you should still take caution and gently stretch the feet, since it’s very easy to overwork them.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Stretching your feet once or twice a week is not going to get you anywhere. The key to effective foot stretching is consistency and a healthy dose of discipline. The author of the blog Ballet Heart described how she saw great improvement from stretching her feet three times a day, every day for four years. She writes that she can’t imagine how many hours have been spent stretching her feet, and that “It probably adds up to at least a week straight.”

Consistent stretching multiple times a day will garner the most results. Just be sure to gradually increase the intensity of your stretch, avoid stretching until it hurts and be careful not to overwork yourself.

Simple Foot Stretches for Dancers

There are plenty of simple stretches you can do to work your feet. The blog Live On Pointe recommended pointing and flexing your feet using a Theraband for resistance, along with doing relevés on each leg.

BalletHub advised doing the “Wrap n’ Push” to improve the feet. You sit on the floor, bend one leg over the other and stretch your feet through several movements using your hands. See their step-by-step guide to the stretch here.

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Event Safety: Dance Recital Safety Tips

event safety

Recital season is an exciting time, but it can also be a cause of worry for parents. Recitals are typically, frenzied and fast-paced experiences, and parents may be a little weary of dropping their child in a chaotic situation. Here are some smart event safety tips to keep in mind this recital season:

Pack an Event Safety First Aid Kit

In addition to having a bag full of extra performance essentials, like bobby pins, hair spray and a spare pair of tights, you should also safety items, like Band-aids, Neosporin and wet wipes. Make sure you have a comprehensive first-aid kit on hand at the recital venue, too.

Make Sure Emergency Contact Info Is Up to Date

Emergency contact info is often a line parents quickly fill out without a second thought, but in the worst case that there ever is an actual emergency, this information will need to be up-to-date. In the weeks leading up to the recital, verify parent or guardian contact info and make sure it’s stored somewhere that’s easily and quickly accessible.

Do a Risk Assessment of the Venue

While you already have an overflowing to-do list to prepare for the recital, you must make time to do a risk assessment of the venue, noted the resource Safe Dance Practice. Tour the venue and note fire exits. You should also familiarize yourself with the venue’s emergency procedures, and alter them to fit the recital set-up if necessary. Record this information and make sure to share it with dancers, parents and all volunteers and studio staff members prior to the event.

Practice Safe Drop-off and Pick-Up Procedures

The nerves are flying before the curtain rises, but some of the most stressful times of a recital are when parents are dropping off and picking up their dancers. When you have a dizzying swarm of dancers coming and going or when you’re distracted by a million things all at once, it can be easy to lose sight of a dancer or not notice who came to get them.

There is software that you can purchase for checking in dancers, if you feel that it would help you organize the process better. Capterra noted that many check-in systems allow multiple ways to identify who is checking in, such as using the last name or phone number, or even a bar code. While software is not necessary, and may be beyond your resources, make sure you get the full name and contact info of the person who is checking in the dancer.

Think about what the best option is for check-out, too. You can have parents come directly to the dressing room during intermission or at the end of the show, or you can have a separate table staffed with volunteers to take the info of the family members picking up. Whatever you choose, make sure you fully brief the parents, dancers and volunteers on the event safety procedures.

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5 High-Energy Snacks to Help You Power Through Your Dance Competitions

5 High-Energy Snacks to Help You Power Through Your Competitions

Dance competitions are a real test of endurance. You often have to drive a ways to the venue, spend time warming up, do multiple performances over several hours. Not to mention that you may have a few competitions packed into just one weekend! To dance at your best, you need to be in tip-top shape physically, and it starts with good nutrition and having some high-energy snacks on hand.

It’s vital that you give your body the energy it needs to dance in peak shape, and this means providing it with fuel throughout the day with healthy snacks designed to keep you on your toes – literally. Balanced snacking before and after your competition helps keep your muscles’ stores of glycogen at their highest levels, which improves your performance, and helps ward off the nasty effects of a low glycemic index, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness and blurred vision, according to Central Washington University’s Department of Sports Nutrition.

Snack Formula

In an ideal world, chocolate bars would provide all the energy we need with none of the sugar, fat or calories! Until scientists engineer some miracle food like that, it’s important to be strategic when putting together your snacks. Avoid white starches and refined sugars, since these give you a quick boost but then make you crash, noted Harvard Medical School. Instead, opt for snacks that contain complex carbohydrates and a small amount of healthy unsaturated fats or protein. Also, steer clear of “power bars” in stores. While these products claim to have the perfect balance of nutrients to boost your energy, many of the claims are just marketing. An Ohio State University study revealed that power bars aren’t any better at giving you sustained energy than candy bars are.

5 Great Snack Ideas for Energy

Try the ideas below to make sure you don’t slack on the snacks.

1. 1/2 Whole Wheat Pita with 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter

This snack idea from the Boston Ballet will help keep you full throughout your competition. Half a whole wheat pita provides you with energy-boosting complex carbohydrates, in addition to 6 grams of fiber, according to Livestrong.com, and pitas won’t make you feel bloated like regular bread might. The peanut butter contains protein and healthy fats, a winning combo that will help you have the energy to perform at your best. For another great-tasting twist on this snack, try swapping the peanut butter for 2 tablespoons of hummus and a hard-boiled egg.

2. 1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese with 1/2 Sliced Strawberries and 2 Mini Whole-Wheat Bagels

The cottage cheese contains protein and Vitamin D, which is a source of energy, noted Healthsomeness.com, and will keep you full for a long time. Strawberries add a little sweetness without unhealthy sugars and also give you a dose of antioxidants, while mini whole-wheat bagels provide some complex carbohydrates.

trail mixMake your own trail mix with your favorite ingredients and then pack in a bag to take along to competitions.

3. Popcorn

Your Daily Dance recommended that dancers pop a bag of popcorn before they leave the house and tote it with them to the competitions to snack on throughout the day. Popcorn is a fantastic source of whole grains that contains vitamins that help your muscles release and use energy. Mix in a handful of nuts or yogurt-covered raisins with your popcorn for a well-rounded snack.

“Popcorn is a great snack because you get a lot of volume and fiber (which makes you feel full), and it’s a whole grain, so it’s healthier than a snack like pretzels,” said Tara Gidus of the American Dietetic Association in an interview with Fitness magazine.

4. Trail Mix

A bag of trail mix is also great for munching on throughout the day at competitions. Many store-bought trail mixes contain loads of sugar, so it’s a better idea, and more cost-effective to make your own at home. One Green Planet recommended to follow this ratio when putting together your mix: 3 parts nuts to 1 part seeds to 1 part sweet ingredients like dried apricots or raisins. Nuts are a proven energy booster that also contain healthy fats and protein, so choose your favorite nut and get started making your own trail mix.*

5. Sliced Veggies with 1/4 Greek Yogurt Dip

Surprisingly, vegetables contain a high percentage of carbohydrates, according to Livestrong.com, so they’re a great choice for an energy-boosting snack. Pair sliced veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers or zucchini with Greek yogurt for a yummy low-fat dip. The Boston Ballet suggested adding a little chopped parsley or chives and lemon juice to the yogurt to spice up the dip.

Snacking Smart

The morning before a competition is always rushed, so don’t leave putting your snacks together to the last minute. If you’re scrambling and forget to bring along any snacks, you’re more likely to be tempted to hit up the vending machine or bake sale to ease your appetite later in the day. The night before the competition, package your snacks in plastic containers and baggies to have them ready to go in the morning, along with any ice packs to keep perishable foods cold. Try to avoid eating snacks that easily spill or stain while wearing your costume, but if you must, make sure you wear a sweatshirt or jacket over it just in case. And finally, remember that snacks don’t replace meals, so be sure to eat balanced meals throughout the day.

*Editor’s note: Be sensitive to the possibility of peanut or tree nut allergies among other dancers. Be sure to consider those with nut allergies when deciding what to bring, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.

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Planning A Dance Recital: 4 Weeks Away From the Big Show

planning a dance recital

You’ve spent the year planning a dance recital for your studio, and now, with one month left to go, everything is finally coming together. The next few weeks will bring a flurry of emails and phone calls and the time will pass by before you even realize it. It’s possible, however, to minimize stress and stay sane – the key is being organized and having a dance recital checklist.

One of the worst feelings is suddenly remembering that you forgot to pick up the costumes, enlist volunteers or take care of another vital task. The dance recital checklist below will help you make sure you stay on track with one month to go before the recital.

Check in With the Venue

If you are holding the recital at a venue other than your own studio, now is the time to check-in with them and confirm that the space will be yours for the recital and for any rehearsals. Verify the hours that you’ll need to use the venue, and make sure that you have secured sufficient space for dressing rooms and backstage areas and that there will be enough chairs for your audience and tables for selling flowers and other items.

You also should check that there is an easily accessible parking area for audience members, teachers, dancers and volunteers. Also, make a note of what you’ll need to bring with you for the performance, such as additional lighting and music systems.

Try on Costumes

The last things you want are uncomfortable dancers and curtain-call wardrobe surprises. Don’t wait until the recital gets closer – instead, have your dancers try on their costumes well before recital time to make sure they fit, recommended Crown Awards. Consider offering a “Costume Construction Day” for alterations or provide parents with the contact info of the seamstress so they can arrange any necessary alterations or tailoring if the fit should be improved before rehearsals. Also, check that each dancer has all the necessary accessories and a garment bag for transporting the costume to the dress rehearsal and recital.

Prepare Programs

Programs can be a hassle to put together, but if they include advertiser pages they can really help boost your business. One month before the recital, layout and print the programs. You can do this yourself on publishing software if you’re design-savvy, but otherwise, you can outsource the programs to an online company. When you receive the draft of the programs, triple-check for typos, misspelled names and other errors.

If you have money in your budget, hiring a professional designer to craft your recital programs is well worth the money, advised Dance Studio Life. This way, you can create custom ads for local businesses who want to be included in your program but don’t have an ad ready, and you can have a snazzy, high-quality program that you can sell as a keepsake.

Finalize Recital Add-ons

It’s important to figure out ahead of time what you will offer at the recital. Dance recital add-ons can be both a service to your dance families and a source of added income. The Dance Exec provided a helpful list of recital “extras” that you should consider: Logo t-shirts, posed and candid recital photos, flowers, trophies, stuffed animals and recital DVDs. If you haven’t already, decide whether you will hire a professional photographer and/or videographer to record the recital, and book them ASAP. Check out this post for tips on choosing the right photographer for your dance recital photos.

Distribute Recital Packets

There are so many details for dance families to remember –  make it as easy as possible by providing a recital packet. Some of the information you might want to include is:

  • Rehearsal information
  • Posed/recital photo sessions/information
  • Recital day schedule/info, including drop-off/pickup information, parking, etc.
  • Costume reminders/information
  • Cost of recital add-ons, and any related order forms
  • Information about remaining volunteer needs/perks

In addition to the packet itself, make use of email, text and social media reminders to keep your dance families informed. You may also want to hold a mandatory “recital meeting,” especially for new dance parents.

Want an easy template to start from? You can download our Sample Recital Detail Information template using the form below! It’s a Microsoft Word document, so you can edit the details according to your needs.

dance recital information

Confirm Volunteers

Take the time now to confirm that you have enough volunteers to help out with the recital – and recruit some if you discover you’re falling short. It’s easy to forget certain little jobs that need volunteers, so sit down and list out every aspect of the recital to make sure you’ve enlisted enough help. Do you have people to man the flower or recital DVD table? What about someone to help organize the dancers backstage? Someone to take tickets, give out the programs, or direct parking? Make sure you have all your bases covered!

Take Care of Yourself

With all the craziness that comes with recital season, you need to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and opt for convenient, healthy meals instead of fast food after late classes and client visits. You might think that feeling pulled in a million directions all at once is a normal feeling as the recital approaches, but neglecting your health only makes it more likely that you’ll wake up the morning of the recital with a throbbing migraine and a sore throat.

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, take a step back and remember – all the little details are fun, but the true value of planning a dance recital is that your dancers get to share their passion and hard work with loved ones and a community who cares.

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How to Become a Dancer

how to become a dancer

Being a dancer is about so much more than just learning choreography and proper technique. It’s also about what’s happening on the inside, in a dancer’s soul. Dancers are artists who use movement to express themselves and connect with others, creating something beautiful with every jeté or plié. Becoming a dancer requires hard work, sacrifice and a willingness to make yourself vulnerable, but the rewards of a life devoted to dance make it all worthwhile. Take a look at these tips for how to become a dancer.

Why Dance?

Dancing is not only healthy for your body, but it’s also good for your spirit and sense of self. Identifying the ways that dancing attracts and affects you on a personal level can help you become a better dancer and persevere through difficult times. The Huffington Post asked professional dancers why they dance, and the answers were both touching and thought-provoking.

Kayla Rowser, a dancer with the Nashville Ballet, said, “I dance because I love sharing a piece of my soul with the world through movement.”

“I dance because I enjoy expressing my feeling and emotion in many ways. And it makes me happy,” responded Ballet San Jose dancer Maykel Solas.

Other respondents answered that they dance because it helps them get in touch with their emotions, makes them smile and helps them express themselves without using words. Others dance because they have to, and many echoed dance teacher Amanda Trusty who said “I dance because sometimes it’s the only way I know how to speak.” Part of becoming a dancer is recognizing what drives your passion and what draws you to dance.

The Beauty of a Life Devoted to Dance

There are many amazing advantages to devoting your life to dance. The hard work and determination required to overcome challenges in your dancing can teach you how to deal with obstacles and setbacks in other areas of your life. You become fluent in a beautiful, powerful language that many people never get to learn, and the close attention to detail and eye for aesthetics that you develop as a dancer helps you see and appreciate beauty in all other aspects of life. You become more confident in not only your skills and talents as a dancer, but in your ability to truly and fearlessly be yourself.

As Dance Advantage noted, “There’s not much you need to know in life that you haven’t already learned in a dance class.”

Dancing also contributes to the wellness of both your body and mind. Dancing strengthens your core and keeps your heart healthy, eases depression and anxiety and promotes mindfulness, according to Berkley Wellness. All of these benefits add up to a healthy body and a positive outlook on life.

The Costs of a Life Devoted to Dance

But being a dancer is no easy role to take on. You will be pushed to the limit of what you think you can achieve physically and mentally. You will face imposing challenges, intense nerves and harsh disappointment, and will have to make certain sacrifices along the way. While your friends are able to spend time hanging out on the weekends, you may need to head to class or travel to a performance. You might need to devote years to intense training to learn proper technique and improve as a dancer, especially for classical forms.

But the beauty of these trials and tribulations is that you come out the other side even stronger than before.

Achieving Your Dreams

If the costs don’t faze you and the advantages excite you, then don’t wait another minute to pursue your goal of becoming a dancer. Sign up for introductory classes at a studio in your area and begin your dance journey. ArtsAlive recommended expanding your knowledge about dance by attending as many performances as you can and learning about dance online and in books and magazines. Try taking a few classes in different styles of dance to learn which bests suits your talents and personality. Seek out summer programs and workshops, which can be great opportunities to hone your craft.

Remember that you can still be a dancer even if you have a day job. If dance adds meaning to your life, make it a part of your life in whatever way you can, whether that means taking a beginner class, buying a barre for home use or volunteering to help organize local performances.

Constantly challenge yourself, too. As Rebecca Brightly wrote on her blog Dance World Takeover: “Practice is not “the thing.” Do The Thing you actually want to do! Perform, enter comps, choreograph, teach, film dance videos—whatever calls to you. Go do lots of that, then do lots more.”

When you’re practicing and challenging yourself, think about what devoting your life to dance means to you. For some, that means joining a company as a professional dancer, for others, it means teaching or choreographing dance. The important thing is to think about what excites your soul.

Fall in love with dance, and when hard times come, remind yourself why you love it all over again. Training and practice are the building blocks, but it takes passion to truly become a dancer.

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Should You Do a Group Warm Up Exercise Before Competitions?

warm up exercise

You start each class with a group warm up exercise, which helps prepare the muscles and minds of your students for the practice ahead. Your students expect that each class will begin the same way, and they try to perform the movements in unison with each other. When it comes to competitions, though, this go-to warm up is a little less reliable. Your dancers might travel separately to the competition venue, or maybe there’s limited space, and it ends up that each of your dancers’ stretches on their own, off in a corner or hallway, or in pairs.

While independent stretching before competitions is unproblematic for advanced, experienced dancers, a group warm up exercise before competitions can be incredibly beneficial. Just make sure that you take up as little space as possible and choose a warm-up location that’s away from high-traffic areas.

Boost Performance and Reduce Injury

The main goal of warming up is to raise the body’s temperature by a few degrees, noted Jan Dunn in a post for 4Dancers.org. By increasing body temperature, you lubricate your joints, boost blood flow to your muscles, raise your breathing rate and strengthen your mind-body connection. A warm-up that is not done properly or is insufficient can lead to injury and hurt a dancer’s performance.

Younger or inexperienced dancers likely do not have a thorough understanding of what a correct and effective warm-up entails. By leading a group warm-up with all of your dancers before a competition, you can ensure that each and every one of your students has fully prepared their muscles to perform safely and at their best.

Increase Focus

Nerves are high before a competition, and when a student is off on her own stretching and watching dancers from other studios warm-up, her nerves can jump up even higher.

“Getting engrossed in others’ dancing could make you nervous or subliminally lower your expectations for yourself,” wrote Amy Brandt for Pointe Magazine.

A group warm-up before a competition allows your students to focus on you and each other, and not the dancers they’re competing against. By following your warm-up instructions, they can focus on their own skills and better drown out noisy distractions.

Comprehensive Preparation

An effective warm up exercise routine includes a variety of movements and stretches, and it’s much easier for dancers to forget certain movements if they’re warming up independently. A thorough warm-up involves three stages, passive, general and specific, explained Dance Advantage.

The passive warm-up is simply making gentle movements while wearing legwarmers and other layers to raise body temperature. The general warm-up, which is 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio, is likely the warm-up stage most skipped over by dancers, according to the site. And the specific stage is when unique movements are done to work the main muscle groups that will be taxed during the performance, and includes barre and center work.

A thorough, multi-stage warm-up is the best preparation before a competition.

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Making Creative Movement Lesson Plans

creative movement lesson plans

As any dance teacher who’s worked with young children knows, kids have a boundless supply of energy. Attempts to teach them technique or choreography often end in vain, with aggravated children and an even more frustrated teacher. Young preschool- and kindergarten-age children generally don’t have the attention span or discipline to do barre work or learn correct technique, but this young and energetic age group is perfectly suited to succeed at creative movement. You can take advantage of their energy with creative movement lesson plans.

Creative movement is offered as a class at many dance studios and is designed to introduce children to the idea of expressing themselves through movement. The creative movement lesson plans work with young children’s natural enthusiasm, short attention spans and high energy levels to explore basic concepts of dance and creativity.

There are many benefits of creative movement. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, creative movement aids children’s physical development, teaching them body awareness and control and how to move around in a space. It also encourages them to use their imaginations and become comfortable with expressing themselves.

It helps them grow socially and emotionally, since they must learn to share space with others, and expressing themselves in a myriad of ways – for example, pretending to be a certain animal or acting like a type of weather – helps them recognize that they have a wide range of feelings. Additionally, creative movement classes teach children to be respectful in a class-setting and effectively listen to teachers.

Areas to Cover When Making Creative Movement Lesson Plans

A creative movement class is much more than simply telling students to pretend they are butterflies for 45 minutes and sitting back as they run around the room. The class needs structure and purpose to allow creativity to flourish. Let’s Talk Creative Dance Conversation recommended not staying with one activity for too long, so break up the class into smaller units.

Don’t cluster your activities in one space, either – move around the room. Use visual aids and props to inspire movement, and form your activities so that the kids have choices in the way they move and respond. A dynamic lesson plan will keep kids engaged.

“When you keep it moving, keep it structured, and use student demonstrators, kids stay focused and on task,” wrote Anne Greene Gilbert in a post for the site. “The teacher has control because the students have self-control since they are interested in what is happening.”

NAEYC suggested playing the game “Telephone” but with movement instead of words. Think of a theme for the day or week, and create activities related to that theme – the source gave the example that if your theme is “Spring,” you can have children “dance the making of a garden,” basing their motions off digging holes, watering plants, etc. Give children a prop like scarves and ask them to make their scarves flap like a flag, swim like a fish or float to the floor like a snowflake, suggested Childhood101.

You can also put on a song and ask the kids to move in a way that follows the rhythm and style of the song – for example, put on a fast song and ask them to hop like bunnies, or a slow song and ask them to crawl like cats. This helps them learn how to move with different types of music.

There are countless creative movement resources online. The National Dance Education Organization, ASCD, NAEYC and other associations link materials that will help you craft lesson plans, and creative movement activity ideas are also a popular topic on dance forums.

Teacher Tips

For teachers that are worried their creative movement classes will be more like creative chaos, preparing a structured lesson plan ahead of time reduces this anxiety. ASCD recommended establishing routines that guide your class, for example, doing a warm-up and cool-down and doing individual movement activities first and then moving to partner and group ones. Also, having a recognizable item or sound to signify switches between activities or that the students need to listen, such as a bell or drum, are also very useful.

Special Considerations

Many creative movement activities can be adapted to fit any student, noted NAEYC. For children with special needs, you can modify the activity to accommodate the student’s abilities. For example, a jumping activity can include kids in wheelchairs by having them move their arms or shoulders instead, or, in an activity where students make a certain letter with their body, special needs students can use a body part like their fingers to form the letter. The source noted that activities where students express the story of a song or book through movement are especially accommodating to children of all skill and needs levels.

Creative movement classes also don’t require expansive studio spaces. If you have a small space, you can do activities where the children stand in one place but jump up and down or wiggle their arms and legs in special ways, and if there are poles or shelves that break up an open space, you can incorporate moving around these obstacles into your activities, noted the source.

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Tips for Dancers: Be the Best You

tips for dancers

With all the hours you spend striving to make your technique perfect and the hundreds of videos you watch of your favorite dancers, it can be easy to lose sight of what makes you unique. Every dancer, whether she’s a veteran or total beginner, has characteristics that make her special and set her apart from every other dancer. Truly fantastic dancers aren’t great because they’re technically perfect, but are great because they embrace their strengths and one-of-a-kind personality. They bring passion to the stage, capitalize on what they’re good at and, by doing so, remain in the minds of their audiences long after the show is over. Use these tips for dancers to help you achieve your full potential as a dancer, and while it may seem difficult to do so at first, a little soul-searching, honesty and reflection will help you soar to new heights.

Create a Personal Mission Statement

You may have an idea in your mind about why you love to dance or what you hope to achieve through ballet, but spending the time to sit down and put these sentiments into words will help you identify what makes you unique and will guide your dance journey. Think about what your dreams are, what you most want to accomplish and where you want to be in the future. In her book, “Career Coach: Managing Your Career in Theater and the Performing Arts,” Shelly Field provided the example mission statement, “My mission statement is to use my skills and talent to create a career dancing as a principal in the New York City Ballet.” The mission statement can be whatever resonates with your heart, but it’s important to keep it short, focused and clear. Once you’ve created your mission statement, make copies of it and stick it where you’ll constantly see it, like on your mirror, in your bag or on your laptop.

Play to Your Strengths

Everyone’s body is different and is better adapted to certain skills and movements than others. To be the best you, you should recognize what you excel at and are uniquely talented at, and then devote yourself to getting even better at them. There’s always someone who is going to be better than you, and it’s okay to admire them for their abilities, but beating yourself up for not being as good builds harmful, negative energy. Instead, recognize your unique gifts! For example, Pointe Magazine Online profiled Kathi Martuza, a dancer with hyperextension in her legs. While her condition gives her beautiful long lines, it also causes her knee pain and muscle issues and makes turns difficult. Instead of dwelling on the challenges she faces, she appreciates the things she’s good at.

“Everybody has strengths and weaknesses,” she said in an interview with magazine. “Play up your strengths and show them off. Then work on your weaknesses.”

Embrace your Style

Of course, there are times when you have little control over the choreography or costume, but part of becoming the best you as a dancer is figuring out your unique style and then not being afraid to show it. Create your own choreography for performances and competitions that showcase your spirit as a dancer, whether that means you do a routine full of sky-high leaps and acrobatic moves to powerful music, embrace the classical style with elegant lines and a refined costume or incorporate moves and rhythms from your cultural heritage. Confidently expressing yourself and what makes you unique will help you achieve your full potential as a dancer.

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Dance Health Benefits for Kids

dance health benefits for kids

Dancing is not only fun but provides a range of dance health benefits. Dancing at any age is good for you, but involving kids with dance early on supports their physical and mental development and shows them the importance of exercise.

While children jump and twirl and release their boundless energy, they’re also growing, learning and building healthy habits for life. Here are some dance health benefits (and more!) for kids:

Physical Fitness

From balancing on their toes to raising their arms and even just standing in third position, dance utilizes the entire body and all of its muscle groups. It is an aerobic exercise, which gets the heartbeat going to strengthen the cardiovascular system, increases lung capacity and builds endurance. It also improves flexibility, posture and balance. In addition to these health benefits, dance helps improve coordination and kinesthetic memory, or body awareness, in children. According to Dancescape, moving our bodies to music strengthens the connection between our bodies and our minds by supporting both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

Mental Development

Dancing not only benefits the body, but also the mind. Learning choreography helps children strengthen their cognitive abilities and memory skills. Alternatively, being given the opportunity for free and spontaneous movement aids their problem-solving skills. As the National Dance Education Organization stated:

“Movement provides the cognitive loop between the idea, problem, or intent and the outcome or solution. This teaches an infant, child and, ultimately, adult to function in and understand the world.”

Furthermore, dancing helps children become more comfortable with their bodies and with expressing their ideas and emotions. This body awareness and confidence translates into higher self-esteem. A more positive sense of self helps children deal with emotional issues that they may have, and in turn, teaches them the valuable skill of how to deal with problems and bad feelings constructively.

Social Skills

As children learn to relate to their body movements through dance, they’re also learning to relate to each other. Dance teaches children how to cooperate and work together in groups. By interacting with the instructor, it teaches them how to effectively communicate their needs, opinions and ideas. By learning new skills alongside others, children bond with each other, and begin to understand what it takes to collectively work toward one common goal. Lifelong friendships can be made in dance class, and by becoming more comfortable with expressing themselves through dance, shy children can feel more comfortable coming out of their shells and overcome their anxiety.

By supporting children’s physical and mental development, dance gives children the skills and health benefits they need to grow into healthy adults.

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What Do Your Dance Moves Say About You?

what do your dance moves say about you

During a recital, you make sure you hit every count of the choreography perfectly and pour your emotions into your leaps and turns to tell a story to the audience. But what kind of story are you telling when you’re not on stage or in front of the mirror, but are instead busting out moves at a friend’s party or school dance? The way you move when you don’t care who’s watching tells a lot about what type of personality you have, according to new research. And beyond revealing your personality, scientists think that your dance moves may also give insight into your thoughts and feelings.

So, what do your go-to dance moves say about you?

Moving around the dance floor a lot while making big, energetic movements with your arms and head: You’re an extrovert! You own that dance floor with your dramatic moves and don’t care who’s watching. The more attention you get, the better!

Doing the “shuffle,” or jerkily moving your hands and feet in quick, sharp motions: You have an neurotic personality! You feel a little more self-conscious in the disco lights of a dance floor than up on stage, and don’t want to make too much of a statement.

You make up and down movements right in time with the music, but not much more than that: You are open-minded! Your mind is free and unworried so it can tap into the music and what it makes you feel. You have an impeccable sense of rhythm and timing, and can adjust easily between different musical styles and songs.

You move your body in smooth side-to-side motions while swinging your hands: You have an agreeable personality! Like with other things in life, you go with the flow and let the music move you. People gravitate toward you, and you love when the size of your dancing circle grows.

You dance your way around the room, never staying in one spot too long, and are constantly making big motions with your hands: You have a conscientious and dutiful personality! You are a dedicated worker, always staying late after class to nail your choreography. You hate being bored and want to make sure you get the most out of whatever you do and live life to the fullest.

And finally, if you always point your toes, no matter where you are: You are a true dancer at heart! This one wasn’t in the study, but if your friends always point out how your toes are always curled in impeccable form it can only mean one thing: You always have the spirit of dance within you, wherever you go!

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Best Barre Exercises to Keep Dancers Fit

Best Barre Exercises to Keep Dancers Fit Off Stage

Many people would consider dance a workout in itself. However, in order to be at your best as a dancer, there’s some preparation required off the stage as well. Some dancers appreciate a good workout to help keep them in shape but also to keep their muscles limber and strong. While everyone has a different workout they prefer, some moves are classic, especially barre exercises.

While there are several different types of barre classes dancers can take to keep in shape, Physique 57 is currently one of the best in the business. Several celebrities have tested out this class, including Chrissy Teigen. The classes are modeled off of the Lotte Berk Method, a tried-and-true method created in the ’50s and used by dancers all over the world. If you’re looking to stay toned and lean off stage, use these moves from Physique 57 to help you stay in shape, according to Dance Spirit magazine.

Have you tested out these barre exercises?

1. The Curtsy

This exercise helps work your thighs, improves your balance and tones your core and back. If you’ve ever done ballet, you know this move pretty well. For this exercise you will need a sturdy chair to use for balance. Begin in plie form in first position. Make sure you feel comfortable, not awkward or strained.

Place your hands on the back of the chair and lean the top part of your body forward, keeping your back straight, until you reach a 45-degree angle. Once you’re in this position, lift your right heel off the floor and slide it to your left side behind your body, so that it aligns with your left shoulder.

Slowly begin to lower yourself to the ground, making sure to keep your hips and your shoulders aligned. Begin to do 30 to 60 pulses in this position, and then switch to the other leg. If you really want to test your strength and your muscles, try this position even lower to the ground.

“Barre classes are modeled off the Lotte Berk Method, used by dancers all over the world.”

2. The Deli Slicer

Even though this workout has a funny name, these moves help tone and strengthen the obliques, gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. Begin lying down on your right side with your arm stretched upward beneath your head.

Place your left palm on the ground near your chest to help keep yourself balanced. Pull your knees toward your chest until you reach a 90-degree angle. Keeping your legs together, lift your feet off the ground with your knees staying on the floor.

From this position, push your left leg outward until it’s straight. Try to reach as far as you can go without straining yourself. Then bring your leg back in, returning to the initial position. Complete this move 15 times slowly, followed by 20 times quickly. Then switch sides. If you think about the motion of your legs, it should look like a deli slicer.

3. The Superwoman

This exercise is great for the core and can help tone your abdominal muscles. You will need a cushion and a ball to perform this move. Begin sitting on the ground. Place some type of cushion – whether it’s a yoga mat or a pillow – behind your lower back for support.

Once it’s in place, start to lower yourself onto it, making sure to keep your arms, head and neck upright. Place your feet on the ball, keeping your toes pointed forward. Make sure your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms are outstretched forward.

Inhale inward and place your arms overhead so that your body is entirely on top of the cushion and your legs are completely straight, with your feet still resting on the ball. Return to the initial position.

Repeat this process between 30 and 60 times, depending on your strength. Make sure you don’t sit all the way up on the return, as that won’t work your muscles as strongly.

4. The Pretzel

This exercise helps stretch your hips, strengthen your waistline and tone your gluteus maximus. Start this exercise sitting on the ground, with your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you and your right leg at a 90-degree angle behind your back. Try to push your right thigh as far back as it’s willing to go. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your left leg to improve stability.

Tighten your core, point your toes and lift your right leg off the floor and move it up and down between 20 and 30 times, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees.

Then, repeat the position but extend your leg and keep your foot flat for another 20 to 30 repetitions.

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